Published on December 5th, 2011 | by Wild Gender0
WTF? Cisgenderism compared to “Nazis” & “Jim Crow”
An upstate New York paper—The Times Union—released a story late this evening that detailed the Albany TDoR. The article was intended to serve as the first in a multi-part series “introducing readers to more than a dozen (transgender) people who agreed to tell their stories in the hope of putting a human face on what is still taboo.”
Besides a heavy focus on “Gender Identity Disorder” treatment—hormones, surgery, and a constant clinging to the gender binary, the article managed to relate “passing” to the “Jim Crow South” and “Nazi Germany.”
No, we’re not kidding.
While comparisons like this are problematic on many levels, we at Wild Gender are mostly sure that the author of the article has no idea what “passing” actually means. They seemed to imply that “passing” was some kind of activity born out of non-acceptance.
“Transgender people often don’t go public with their transition from being born a biological male to living as a female, or vice versa, and instead speak of “passing.” Passing implies that society will not accept them in their new gender and so they engage in subterfuge.”
Subterfuge, really? “Deceit used in order to achieve one’s goal?” (We checked the dictionary). No way.
Correct us if we’re wrong. But we have come to believe that “passing” (in relationship to trans/genderqueer folk) is defined as the level of a acceptance a person (any person) receives from society regarding a chosen gender identity, often based on gender presentation. From our understanding, “passing” is not an active deception that hides somewhere a “true” gender. Rather, we at Wild Gender believe our genders were/are fabulous and have always been that way—no hiding here. But the Union, would rather we take the binary more seriously.
“Passing bears echoes of black people struggling to lighten their skin in the Jim Crow South to avoid a beating or lynching, or Jews trying to blend in as Aryans in Nazi Germany.”
OK, for real? Rarely, if ever, is it applicable to compare the struggles of one marginalized group to the struggles of another marginalized group. In this case, the issues of transgender people are not the issues of people of color under Jim Crow. Nope. No comparison. To even try and illustrate this type of connection undervalues both communities. As far as I know, the transgender community has not yet been sold into slavery nor nearly exterminated by a world superpower. These comparisons are insulting to all involved.
The idea that a transgender person living as their chosen gender presentation is similar to “black (person) struggling to lighten their skin…or Jews trying to blend in as Aryans in Nazi Germany,”makes the assumption that a trans person’s presentation is inherently different than their “true nature.” Again, nope.
Yet, the author follows up their statement with an earnest sentiment about how inherently difficult it is to be a transgender person trying to “pass.”
“It’s a life spent looking over one’s shoulder, always with a gnawing fear of being found out and exposed, is the path some transgender people follow to inoculate themselves against inevitable harassment of coming out and being shunned by family, forced out by employers, succumbing to substance abuse and being gripped by emotional distress.”
This paints an awfully bleak picture. And yet, it’s still nothing like systemic, internalized racism. Cisgenderism is scary, but another beast entirely.
As for the Times Union, we would like to offer you a free copy of a fantastic book entitled “Nobody Passes.” We’ll send it to you at no cost, with no questions asked. All we’d like in return is the hope that your subsequent articles about trans/genderqueer people are more informed.